Not only will the TPP trade agreement turn Obama's supporters against him, it could ruin his Presidential legacy.
For the past three days MSNBC's Ed Schultz blasted Obama for fast-tracking the TPP trade agreement after Obama had just given one of his "populist" speeches in North Carolina about manufacturing and bringing jobs home.
This is one of the few issues that both the right and the left seem to agree on, but there are bought-and-paid-for members of Congress (including Obama) that are trying to pass TPP on behalf of their corporate sponsors.
-- TPP Toxicity Grows -- The White House is calling January “TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) Month” and has made it their task to pass Fast Track. President Obama needs Fast Track to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When Congress returned this month, a bill was quickly introduced after delays of more than a year.
The lies begin with title of the bill: “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014.” Bi-partisan? In the House there was only one sponsor, Republican David Camp (MI). The Republicans demanded the Democrats add a sponsor before it was introduced, but due to public pressure, they could not find one.
The only Democrat on the bill in the Senate is Max Baucus (MT) — the senator who gave us the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and who is leaving the senate to become Ambassador to China. So, the bill is only bi-partisan until he heads off to his new job.
Baucus likes to informally call the bill “The Job Creating Bipartisan Trade Priorities Act,” but that just adds another lie since trade agreements consistently lose jobs, expand the wealth divide and increase trade deficits.
After four years of secret negotiations with more than 600 corporate advisers, the once seemingly invincible largest trade bill in history, covering 40% of the world’s economy , looks very much like it can be defeated.
Why is the TPP looking like it can be stopped? One reason is its secrecy. Leaks are sinking the TPP like the Titanic on its way to the bottom of the ocean. Ron Kirk, the former US Trade Rep said they were keeping it secret because the more people knew, the less they would like the TPP and it would become so unpopular it could never become law. Each leak has proven him right.
This week, Wikileaks released the Environmental Chapter. The bottom line – there is no enforcement to protect the environment. The TPP is worse than President George W. Bush’s trade deals. Environmental groups are saying the TPP is unacceptable.
Similarly, Wikileaks release of the Intellectual Property Chapter revealed that it created a path to patent everything imaginable, including plants and animals, to turn everything into a commodity for profit. The refrain is always the same: profits come first. The necessities of the people and protection of the planet come last.
Baucus announced last March that he would deliver Fast Track by June. Pressure delayed it so that now the bill is being introduced in the beginning of an election year. Election years are a terrible time to pass anything controversial.
The TPP is becoming politically toxic. Over the last year there has been a steady stream of emails and phone calls to Congress. Members have faced constituent meetings and protests where TPP is being raised. Some examples of protests: Los Angeles, Seattle,Washington, DC, Salt Lake City,Minneapolis, US Trade Rep Office, Vancouver, Leesburg, New York City, . . . we could go on. Americans have sent a clear message to Congress members that they better not be associated with the TPP in an election year.
When Fast Track was introduced there was a backlash, according to public reports, of angry Democrats. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Huffington Post: “I’m a little disappointed that something’s dropped that was never discussed with Democrats in the House. As I understand it, it wasn’t actually discussed with Democrats in the Senate.”
Five members of the Senate Finance Committee told US Trade Representative Mike Froman they will not support the Baucus Fast Track bill because Congress needs to be involved throughout the process not just in an up or down vote after it is completed.
During a hearing on Fast Track on Thursday protesters were there expressing their
Baucus says he will not be holding a mark-up of the bill because of the divisions on the Finance Committee. Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) who will be taking Baucus’ place told Politico there was “broad frustration” with the lack of transparency. And. Majority Leader Reid said that he may not even bring the bill to the Senate Floor if it passes out of committee.
As bad as the Senate sounds for the administration, the House is even worse. Opposition has been building in recent months with Democrats and Republicans writing President Obama opposing Fast Track.
They could not find a Democratic co-sponsor and now Politico reports, that Speaker Boehner says he will not bring the bill to the floor for a vote unless 50 Democrats support it.
The president’s TPA month is off to a bad start, so he has to make a big pitch in his upcoming State of the Union on January 28. If he doesn’t, it is a sign he has given up and is distancing himself from defeat. He’s not only going to have to persuade almost every Republican to support him (that would be a first for his presidency), he’s going to have to convince every Democrat who has not taken a position, and change the minds of many who have already publicly said they oppose Fast Track.
The problem is Members of Congress know that if they get on the wrong side of corporate trade agreements, it will hurt them politically. The public is angry about this job-killing trade deal, even Minority Leader Pelosi has had her events interrupted by TPP protesters. The social movement against corporate trade is coming across loud and clear leading top House Dems to describe it as “dead on arrival” if it does not protect labor and the environment.
The views of many in Congress were summarized in a statement by Democratic Reps. George Miller (CA), Louise Slaughter (NY) and Rosa DeLauro (CT): “Our constituents did not send us to Washington to ship their jobs overseas, and Congress will not be a rubber stamp for another flawed trade deal that will hang the middle class out to dry.”
Members of Congress have seen the research that shows 90% of Americans will see their income go down from the TPP while the wealthiest get wealthier. Why would any Member of Congress want to sign on to something like that – especially in an election year?
Congress should oppose Fast Track because it is an Obama power grab. Under the Baucus-Camp bill the Congress will have 90 days to review the agreement. The House will have 60 days and the Senate will have an additional 30 days. The count begins when the White House decides the negotiations have been completed.
Under the Baucus-Camp Fast Track the president is also able to draft extensive implementing legislation to bring US law into compliance with the agreement. It is up to the president to decide what changes in laws or new laws are needed to comply with the TPP. Congress is not able to mark-up or amend the language of these bills. And, these can be very significant laws. For example, provisions like “Buy American” or “Buy Local” can be repealed as a restraint on trade. In all of these cases under Fast Track the president becomes the Congress and drafts legislation, totally destroying the checks and balances of the three branches of government.
As some anti-TPP activists in Los Angeles showed in a great street theater action in front of the offices of Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Fast Track makes Congress unnecessary. They brought the “TPP movers” to his office and outsourced him. It is important for activists to know what is in Fast Track because the US Trade Representative has been doing its best to mislead the public.
The movement against the TPP has come a long way in the last year from challenging a trade agreement that no one knew about and looked like it could not be stopped; to a trade agreement widely known about in activist circles and which is becoming too toxic for elected officials to be associated with in an election year.
The reason we have come this far is because the TPP affects so many aspects of every person’s lives – food, the environment, workplaces, the Internet, banking and finance, job availability, health care, energy, the list goes on and on. As people learn about the TPP and what it does they oppose it. While lame ducks like Obama and Baucus who do not have to seek re-election can ignore angry constituents and follow the demands of big money, those seeking re-election do not have that luxury.
And if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, don't expect her position on "free" trade agreements to be any different than Obama's or her husband's --- just like NAFTA.